This arch and four others near the Atlantic Avenue pavilion will be cut down to 48 inches high to allow more plants to grow underneath. A city consultant in February advised leaving the tall sea grapes uncut to provide habitat for migrating songbirds and a buffer from streetlights for sea turtles.
By Jane Smith
The sea grapes along the municipal beach — including five iconic arches — will be trimmed, Delray Beach city commissioners decided on Sept. 10.
More than half of the 42 people who spoke on the sea grape issue at the commission meeting preferred trimming them. The sea grapes will be trimmed to be 48 inches in height.
Donald Robinson, representing 40 residents of the Manor House condominiums at 100 N. Ocean Blvd., called the arches a security issue. As he did more than three years ago, he complained about the arches “housing homeless people.”
He also said Manor House residents were worried about parts of the sea grapes breaking off during a storm, blowing across Ocean Boulevard and damaging their condos.
Other speakers who supported trimming the sea grapes said a lower height would let them see the ocean during their daily walks on the promenade.
Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston, who voted for trimming all the sea grapes on Aug. 18, also in a 3-2 vote, asked for the issue to be reheard at the Sept. 10 meeting.
He first talked about his kids geocaching (using GPS coordinates to find outdoor treasures) in the sea grape arches and wheeling his grandmother into the pavilion at Atlantic Avenue and Ocean Boulevard to see the ocean.
He also went to the beach before the meeting to take pictures of the arches and where the trimming has happened. He pointed out in the images how the area without the tunnels was “healthy and biodiverse” in its plants. The photos of the tunnels showed little plant life underneath the sea grapes.
Commissioner Adam Frankel, who supported the trimming on Aug. 18, continued to say they should be trimmed. He read a letter by Rob Barron, a dune consultant and former Delray Beach lifeguard, about how several of his native plantings died underneath the sea grapes.
“I believe in the science and Mr. Barron,” Frankel said.
But the two who voted for keeping the arches pointed out that Barron does not have a biology or other advanced degree as the coastal engineers hired to do the February study on the sea grape trimming plan.
Barron “is valuable to us in that he knows where all the native plants are,” said Missie Barletto, public works director.
“Mr. Barron said all the sea grapes should be removed,” said Commissioner Juli Casale, who wanted to keep the five arches.
Casale also said more than 1,600 residents signed a petition for keeping the arches.
“People come from all over and take pictures of the sea grape tunnels,” said Mayor Shelly Petrolia, who wanted to save the arches.
“The public wants the sea grape tunnels. Govern yourselves accordingly,” she said before the vote.
The trimming will continue in October after two colonies of honeybees are moved, Barletto said.